Black Creatures Matter
– a DWARVEN WARRIORS III report by Dyan de Rochemont
Mg already wrote an impeccable introduction for those of you unfamiliar with the notorious Dwarven Warriors cup, organized by and hosted by the Demmer family, hailing from the great city of 4000, The Netherlands. No need for me to dive too deep into that as he already laid the groundwork so thoroughly, so let’s get (almost) right to business.
Painting of a scenery
DW’s cardpool is synonymous with breathtakingly beautiful decks: rich, saturated colors, overly huge fonts and stunning art dripping with flavor and breathing pure nostalgia. Controversy also one of two ‘formats’ where duals are strictly better than basics. The vibe here is mellow, laidback and ever so friendly; comradery, conversation and beers are to be found with every step you take.
A big plus and one of many things standing out this year was the day the tournament was held: instead of the traditional Sunday - in the wake of Saturdays’ Knights of Thorn – now on Saturday. Although those previous ‘48 hour’ tandem-tourney marathons of Old School Magic are awesome, the sheer quantity also takes its toll in terms of mental state and overall level of gameplay – at least for me – especially when many beers are involved. And by god, there always are.
The tourney is partly outdoors and outright sunlit. The Demmer family had done their utmost to safely accommodate us during this odd Corona-era. They supplied mouth masks, cleansing supplies and even rented XXL tables to make sure everybody would – at least have the opportunity to – keep a safe distance.
This year’s Cup was streamed and commentated live in its entirety by Timmy ‘come on, we’re professionals here?!?’ the Sorcerer.
The game plan
My track record so far: at the original DW, I played powered U/W control: playsets of Icys, Plows, Disenchants and Counterspells: basically The Deck with Control Magics and Serras as wincons. At the second edition I more closely followed my heart and played mono black; judging by the meta (both then and now) a popular choice, but one that eventually earned me the championship.
This year, my take on the deck is a tad different than what I’ve seen most players do: I avoided the typical low-cost spells such as Dark Ritual (being possible card disadvantage) and Paralyze. Instead my plan was to drag the game into the mid to late game with cheap removal (Terror), mana disruption (Sinkhole) and just biting the bullet and taking names for the first few turns. Once there, I figured a beefier creature base (4 Sengirs, 3 Nightmares, 1 Hordes) and card draw (Book of Reading) would simply overthrow the enemy, hopefully having exhausted their creature removal on Knights and Specters.
Mg’s statement about his B/W midrange deck somewhat applies to mono black as well: some might find it can get somewhat repetitive due to linearity. The spike in me likes squeezing out wins through narrow margins of the right order of play. And they sometimes are paper thin; to me, this is where part of the fun lies. The deck incorporates some synergies, like Royal-Icy and Orb-Icy and is by no means boring to play. Besides that, summoning big flyers all day while drinking beer with like-minded people, what’s not to like?
A disclaimer on my part: I did not anticipate on doing a report, at all. In fact, I was so focused on catching up with the guys both while playing and in-between rounds that I hardly recall the matches or their results. This story is loosely based on true events and may or may not reflect the truth as perceived by others, or myself at the time for that matter.
Although I was travelling with my DW-compatible set of Power Nine, I decided it was more fun to play powerless games, much like last year. Unfortunately, I was cast into the Powered pod nonetheless, where four or five out of ten people wielded Power. Oh well, let’s have fun and make the best of it!
In the first round of swiss I was paired with Florian von Bredow, piloting a very lovely (Powered) four-color Troll Disco deck. Why play Mountain when you can play Taiga instead? Being on unpowered Mono black and having no solution for artifacts besides a lonely Orb, I had difficulty finding the right timing against the Disks (which effectively often means card disadvantage) and keeping up with the higher pace of a powered deck. On top of that, I recall missing my first Orb flip in ages and making a fatal mistake miscalculating my mana sources, hence committing my Icy into the battlefield a full turn too late. The incidents combined costing me both the game and match if I recall correctly. Florian defeated me relentlessly but deservedly with 2-1.
Round 2 gave me the opportunity to catch up with Marten Buhler. His glorious Alpha-collection precedes him, and for his DW debut he played a truly beautiful Alpha Powered Enchantress deck which proved to be quite potent and a wolf in sheep's clothing against my game plan. Drawing cards off Cloned Enchantresses by playing Copy Artifact on my Icy and casting Control Magics on my Sengirs. Often stated jokingly, but I guess the right number of Enchantresses in an Enchantress deck is nowhere near zero on a Limited Edition core set tournament. My second loss for the day; I take it with a smile on my face.
The third round finally yielded me an unpowered adversary: Henk Willemse on mono green. In between the catching-up and drinks, this turned out to be an unfair match as he was unable to answer my typical black threats such as the Specters and Assassins. Demonic Hordes hit the board in both games.
The next match was with Jeff de Nijs, also on Mono Black. The games turned out as I hoped as he was on the lighter side of the mana curve. I was able to stall with sinkholes and overthrow him with bigger creatures. His bursts of Pestilence came awfully close, though. The final game I locked the board down with a Winter Orb.
In the final game of the Swiss I was up against our co-host Erwin Demmer. He played the coreset version of U/R Counterburn with darling trios of Gargoyles, Balloon Brigades, Whelps and Uthden Trolls. Incorporating a Vesuvan Doppelganger in your 75 is always a huge plus, being the sexiest card in the set (although Earthbind is a surprisingly close second). Hoover knew what he was doing. Although these games also consisted mainly of spoken words, laughter and drinks, I was able to take the win.
Now, shortly after my arrival at around 09:50 in the morning – as is tradition at DW – we started drinking. Before the first match commenced I was already at least three beers in. As the day progressed, I proved unable to keep up with pace I set for myself and switched to water somewhere around the end of the Swiss. A golden choice as my level of consciousness reached the utter jolly state but still somehow managed to make it into the final eight. Not sure how my 3-2 score got me there though; it might have been the first two games against powered decks or the blood alcohol level of the scorekeeper; anyways, I was glad I made it. Time to get my act together.
In the Quarter finals I faced Tom Posthuma on a beautiful W/R Sligh-ish deck, loaded with Lions, Plows, Bolts, Gargoyles and Serras. I managed to defeat him and move on to the semis.
On paper the next one would be a tough, tough match: Mg also brings a creature-heavy deck to the table playing powered BW midrange with full playsets of Hippy’s, Sengirs and Serras. Furthermore, he has excellent answers to my Manipulators (Disenchants) and Royal Assassins (Plows), can outpace me with his Moxen and Rituals and finally outdraw me with Tomes and his singleton Scepter. It indeed was a close matchup. He took one of the games gruesomely Twisting me for the full seven. The final game was also a weird one with a first-turn Book by Mg, paid for by Moxen but – although drawing twice the number of cards – unable to find any subsequent lands to further develop his board for quite a few turns.
Finals – Ron Dijkstra (mono black)
Ron is a fierce player from the Lands of the Frozen, bearing a great track record topped off by ending up in 6th place of a massive 256-player swiss of this year’s Summer Derby. Ron, at the time I believe playing his premiere old school tournament, kicked my ass at the Paladins of the North Cup in Groningen early 2019. So “I had an apple to peel with him” a Dutchman might say.
The mono black mirror. This was a match-up I prepared for. Hopefully I would be able to keep his early forces at bay to outperform him in mid and late game. Let’s shuffle up and do this.
Game 1 started out with Ron on the play and keeping his seven, me on the draw going down to 6. I tried to keep his Frozen Shades from hitting me repeatedly by assembling a vast array of Icys. Three were finally enough to prevent them clawing through but I was already too low on life: a Ritual-fueled Drain took care of my remaining five points. I’m behind, 0-1.
Game 2. I boarded out the 4 deadweight Terrors and the Winter Orb (which makes little sense against a deck which also possibly carries multiple Manipulators), replacing them with 2 Paralyze and 3 Drains. This time I can keep all seven and am able to Twist Ron for three on turn four. Drawing cards off a Tome gets me further ahead but now I myself face a wall of Icys, again just one shy of a full playset. Eventually Ron scoops at the eve of me breaking through his defensive barrier with a sextet of creatures, including a tandem of 8/8 airborne Nightmares.
Game 3. The decider. I recall boarding in my second Tome, but I’m unsure of what I took out. A turn two Sinkhole prevents him from powering out a turn three Hippy. Again we see a Twist for three on my fourth turn, taking the Specter, a Bog Wraith and a Mind Twist of his own into the grave. Good riddance. Short on lands, Ron decides to Tutor for a Swamp. I cast a Tome and start executing the card-for-card trading plan until his hand is exhausted. He’s able to stall the game a bit with a Royal Assassin but it meets its end by the third and final Drain in my deck, which I Tutored for. A Nightmare can finally safely visit Ron and two turns later he reaches out and he and I shake hands. I’m exhausted but feel wickedly awesome nonetheless: I defended my title!
Let’s not discuss the obvious here: Black Knight, Hypnotic Specter, Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor, Mind Twist, Chaos Orb.
The Bad calls
- Bad Moon (4 x sideboard)
In a meta with over a third of the decks being mono black: a bad decision. I put these in the sideboard slots for both spice and with the plan to replace the somewhat clunky Icys and gain some agility against faster beatdown decks such as R/G and R/W.
- No mainboard Drain Lives
I had little real-world experience with these and considered them clunky and too mana intensive. I put these in the sideboard against opposing and control magic’d Assassins, which – besides the singleton Orb – I otherwise could not deal with. These lifesavers deserve at least 1 or 2 slots in the mainboard, probably at the expense of Terror.
- No Bog Wraiths
In the DW meta an often unblockable 3/3 creature in the four-drop slot (not a too shabby mainboard meta-call either in the absence of Juzam). How could I not have included these? Never owned any, guess that’s why. Ron showed me in the finals how it’s done though. Tracked down a few Alpha and Beta copies shortly after the tourney and they are ready for business.
- Terror (full playset mainboard)
These are great in AB but also dead cards against any mono black matchup. I considered this and still opted for the Terrors in favor of 1-2 Drains to have some early game removal until I could bring out my heavy hitters.
The Good calls
Jayemdae Tome (1x main, 1x side)
Many of the games, especially the mono black mirrors went long, trading Specters for Specters, Sengirs for Sengirs. These babies drew me oh-so-many cards.
Nightmare (3x main)
In this deck – besides being on a sunny Ring – always at least a 6/6 with evasion. Upon summoning, startlingly often received with applause, roars, grunts or other audible chants of sorts.
No Dark Rituals
Awesome acceleration but also an easy two-for-one. I decided to go all-in on the midrange and card advantage plan and accept some early game damage from little critters.
Royal Assassin (3 main)
I played these mostly for spice, but they pose a need-answer thread to nearly all AB-decks. Easily dismissed with a Bolt or Plow, but 3 assassins and 4 specters might possibly overload their removal. Why three? I’d played a full set had I owned them at the time (I do now).
Demonic Hordes (1 main)
Glory card and swiss army knife of the DW2 final: the lockpiece with a build-in finisher, a beefy body with a repeatable sinkhole. Opted to – again – go with just the singleton because its three-mana upkeep works somewhat contra-productive with the powering-out-fatties and Winter Orb plans. Won me several games the last tournament but only made its entrance on the board twice in DW3 (Sorry, HW-MTG!). Better luck next time.
Erwin and Marijke, thank you so much for your limitless hospitality and the opportunity to once again play in a great tournament in a time where physical games of Old School are spread thin.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, some familiar faces are absent this time. Hope to see you next time!
Oh – and for the record, Timmy, I was in fact feeling my testicles. Both of them.
Dwarven Warriors #4
Dwarven Warriors #3
10:30 start of round 1
5 rounds of swiss, after which we go to top 8.
Tournament ends after the last man can either no longer stand up straight or keep his eyes open.
Dwarven Warriors #2
June 23rd, 2019